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SKYE on AOL

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    @CityOrangeBeach via Twitter

    ST. GEORGE ISLAND, Fla. (AP) - Debby, the guest that wouldn't leave, is ruining things for a lot of other visitors.

    Vacationers were wearing ponchos instead of swimsuits at the peak of the summer season because of the tropical storm, which has drenched Florida for at least four days straight like a giant shower head set up over the state's Gulf Coast. Debby has dumped as much as 26 inches of rain in some spots.

    Disney World wasn't as crowded as usual, and one of its water parks closed because of the soggy, windy weather. Also, Sea World closed early on Monday.

    Along the Florida Panhandle, where Debby sat offshore nearly motionless for days, the parking lot at the 100-room Buccaneer Inn was empty because of a power outage ahead of the usually big pre-July Fourth weekend.

    "We've had bad luck on this island," said the inn's vice president, JoAnn Shiver. "We've had Dennis. We've had Katrina. We had the oil spill."

    In a state where the biggest attractions are the sand and the sun, Debby forced many to make other plans.

    Douglas and Carolyn Green of Nashville, Tenn., were supposed to spend a week on St. George Island with three generations of family, but arrived to find the electricity was out and the bridge closed to non-residents for fear of looters. They spent Monday night in nearby Apalachicola, and then all nine relatives headed to Fort Walton Beach.

    "We never saw the island," said Douglas Green. "We're moving on. Plan B, I guess you'd call it."

    Debby finally blew ashore Tuesday afternoon near Steinhatchee in the Big Bend area, the crook of Florida's elbow. It had sustained winds near 40 mph, barely a tropical storm. It is expected to cross the state and head into the Atlantic on Wednesday afternoon.

    Several areas in northern Florida have received more than 10 inches of rain, and forecasters said southeastern Georgia could expect the same. Wakulla, an area in northwestern Florida known for camping and canoeing, has gotten more than 26 inches.

    A woman was killed in a tornado spun off from the storm, and a man disappeared in the rough surf over the weekend in Alabama. The storm knocked out power to 250,000 homes and business since it began over the weekend, but electricity had been restored to all but about 35,000 customers. Debby has caused mostly scattered flooding, but forecasters warned it could get worse.

    "Even though the winds are coming down, the rain threat continues," said James Franklin at the National Hurricane Center. "We expect another 4 to 8 inches, in some of these areas up in north Florida, in particular."

    More from Skye: Photos: Tropical Storm Debby Drenches Florida

     

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  • 06/26/12--12:28: breaking news banner
  • Tropical Storm Debby Makes Landfall. More Rain Expected. Read More.

     

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  • 06/26/12--16:15: breaking news update
  • Debby Weakens Tuesday, But More Rain is Expected. Read More.

     

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  • 06/26/12--16:21: breaking news update debby
  • Debby Weakens, But More Rain is on the Way. Read more.

     

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    Debby Weakens, but Flooding Threat Remains. Read More.

     

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    (AP) - A massive dust storm in the Phoenix area whipped up 35 mph winds on Tuesday, hampering visibility for drivers. Both the Arizona Department of Transportation and the National Weather Service had issued warnings for drivers in southeastern Arizona to use caution because of the decreased visibility.



    Related: 10 Most Weathery Weather Forecaster Names

     

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    The Waldo Canyon wildfire moved into subdivisions and destroyed homes in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Tuesday. (AP)

    COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (AP) - Tens of thousands of Colorado residents forced from their homes by an out-of-control wildfire took refuge with friends or family and crammed into hotels and shelters as Army troops helped firefighters protect the U.S. Air Force Academy from the flames.

    The blaze was raging early Thursday in the mountains and in Colorado's second-largest city, after more than 30,000 evacuees frantically packed up belongings and fled. The wildfire was one of many burning across the parched West that have destroyed structures and prompted evacuations in Montana and Utah.

    The White House said President Barack Obama will tour fire-stricken areas of Colorado on Friday and thank firefighters battling some of the worst fires to hit the region in decades. Colorado is also considered a key battleground state in the presidential election in November.

    Shifting winds have frustrated firefighters trying to contain the 29-square-mile (75-square-kilometer) Waldo Canyon blaze in Colorado Springs.

    "It won't stay in the same place," said incident commander Rich Harvey.

    Gov. John Hickenlooper said he expected the president might sign a disaster declaration that would allow for more federal aid.

    The full scope of the fire remained unknown. So intense were the flames and so thick the smoke that rescue workers weren't able to tell residents which structures were destroyed and which ones were still standing. Steve Cox, a spokesman for Mayor Steve Bach, said at least dozens of homes had been consumed.

    No injuries or damage to Air Force Academy campus structures were reported as the fire roared along its edge. An incoming class of more than 1,000 is still scheduled to arrive Thursday.

    The FBI said it was investigating the cause of the fire.

    Tom Harbour, director of fire and aviation management for the U.S. Forest Service, said there is competition for firefighting resources, including aircraft, throughout the West.

    Harbour said resources are far from being exhausted.

    "With over 10,000 firefighters in the Forest Service and the ability to get over 700 aircraft of all types, we're feeling cautiously confident when you look at the season as a whole," Harbour said.

     

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    Powered by strong winds from Tropical Storm Debby, a kitesurfer jumps a wave and flies over a pier in Redington Beach, Fla.


     

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    Updated Friday, June 29. 9:30 a.m. ET

    Swimmers in a Michigan water park try to keep cool. (AP)

    The Eastern half of the nation will see another hot day on Friday as a ridge of high pressure that has brought blistering heat to the country's plains continues to move through the Midwest and East Coast. Temperatures could break more than 100 degrees in nearly a dozen states. Excessive heat warnings and heat advisories will remain in effect for the Midwest, as well as the Central and Southern Plains, and have been issued for parts of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

    Related: 16 Scorching Songs Made for Summer Heat

    High temperatures will remain in the lower 100s for these areas, which are about 10 degrees above seasonable for most areas. Meanwhile, a cold front moves over the Great Lakes and into the Northeast on Friday.

    This system will kick up scattered showers and thunderstorms from the Northeast and down the Ohio River Valley. These storms are not expected to turn severe and this front will bring little relief to the hot temperatures for the region.

    Also on Skye: Off-the-Charts Hottest and Coldest Places on Earth
    If you're feeling hot this week, it's not a mirage. From Montana to Louisiana, hundreds of heat records have been slashed as harrowing temperatures leave cornfields parched and city sidewalks sizzling.

    On Tuesday 251 new daily high temperature records were set, boosting to 1,015 the number of records set in the past seven days.

    The consequences range from comical - a bacon-fried driveway in Oklahoma - to catastrophic, as wildfires consuming parts of the Rocky Mountains are fueled by oppressive heat and gusty winds.

    The record-breaking numbers might seem big, but they're hard to put into context - the National Climatic Data Center has only been tracking the daily numbers broken for a little more than a year, said Derek Arndt, head of climate monitoring at the center.

    Still, it's impressive, given that records usually aren't broken until the scorching months of July and August.

    "Any time you're breaking all-time records in mid- to late-June, that's a healthy heat wave," Arndt said.

    And if forecasts hold, more records could fall in the coming days in the central and western parts of the country and extend to the East Coast through the weekend.

    Though it's been a week that could fry a person's soul - and their soles and hands, really anything exposed to the relentless sun - no matter where you are, the objective is the same: stay cool.

    If forecasts hold, more records could fall in the coming days in the central and western parts of the country, places accustomed to sweating out the summer.

    The current U.S. heat wave "is bad now by our current definition of bad," said University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver, but "our definition of bad changes. What we see now will be far more common in the years ahead."

    No matter where you are, the objective is the same: stay cool.

     

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    Smartphone users will soon be able to receive severe weather alerts from the National Weather Service. (AP)

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Millions of smartphone users will soon begin receiving text messages about severe weather from a sophisticated government system that can send a blanket warning to mobile devices in the path of a dangerous storm.

    The National Weather Service's new Wireless Emergency Alerts system offers a new way to warn Americans about menacing weather, even if they are nowhere near a television, radio or storm sirens.

    Beginning Thursday, the system will notify people about approaching tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards and other threats. When a warning is issued for a specific county, a message of no more than 90 characters will cause late-model smartphones in that area to sound a special tone and vibrate.

    Users do not have to sign up for the service or pay for the text message. And people who prefer not to get the warnings can opt out of the system.

    "These alerts will make sure people are aware of any impending danger and provide them with the information needed so they can be safe until the threat is over," said Amy Storey, spokeswoman for CTIA-The Wireless Association, an industry trade group that helped set up the system.

    The system does not yet work with all smartphones or in all areas. It is part of a broader alert network the Federal Emergency Management Agency launched in April that can also send public-safety warnings from the president and participating state and local governments. But the weather service estimates that more than 90 percent of the messages will be about storms.

    The weather warnings will include tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, flash floods, extreme winds, blizzards and ice and dust storms. Designers were concerned about overloading users with too much information, so they deliberately limited the messages to warnings, not watches, and excluded severe thunderstorm warnings, weather service spokeswoman Susan Buchanan said.

    Wireless carriers serving almost 97 percent of U.S. subscribers have agreed to participate, including the biggest nationwide companies - AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA. Each of the four offers at least some phones capable of receiving emergency alerts, with more on the way.

    Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile say they offer the service nationwide. AT&T only offers it in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore., at the moment. Spokesman Michael Balmoris said the company will add additional markets over time but declined to say which ones or when.

    Government officials don't have a good handle on exactly how many capable devices are already in use, but Damon Penn, assistant administrator for national continuity programs at FEMA, said the number is probably in the millions.

    He said smartphone users should check with their carriers to find out whether service is available and if their device is able to use it. He said many people own phones equipped to get the new alerts but don't know it yet.

    Sprint spokeswoman Crystal Davis said most Sprint smartphones now in use can receive the alerts thanks to recent automatic software upgrades. All new models will be equipped, as will all new tablet devices.

    One unanswered question is when the legions of Apple iPhone users will be able to receive alerts. Buchanan said iPhones are supposed to join the system in the fall, but she didn't know if that means only new iPhones, or if software upgrades will make older models capable, too. Representatives of Apple Inc., which is highly secretive about its product upgrades, did not respond to several messages seeking details.

    FEMA's system carries three kinds of alerts: presidential alerts, which might deal with national security information such as terrorist attacks; imminent-threat alerts, which include weather warnings as well as public-safety messages from local authorities; and Amber Alerts issued by law enforcement agencies for kidnapped children.

    Phone users can opt out of the imminent threat and Amber Alerts, usually just by changing their settings, but they can't opt out of presidential alerts.

    Related: 10 Most Weathery Weather Forecaster Names

     

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    A blinding dust storm rolled into the Phoenix area on Wednesday, bringing with it rain and lightning. One driver stopped to capture the haboob on video, highlighting the enormous cloud.

    Also on Skye: Off-the-Charts Hottest and Coldest Places on Earth

     

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    NASA's Terra satellite captured this image of a massive dust storm that began in the Sahara Desert and has spread into Europe. British media reported today that the dust had reached British skies and was falling in dirty raindrops on parts of the country, leaving "grimy orange dust in blotches" on many cars.

     

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  • 06/29/12--01:23: The Science Behind Saturday's Leap Second

  • This Saturday, June 30, expect a lengthier day, as an extra leap second will be added to Earthlings' clocks.

    What's behind this leap second? The ever-so-slight slowing of Earth's rotation, or the 24-hour spin that brings the sun into our skies every morning.

    Historically, humans based time on the average rotation of the Earth relative to other celestial bodies, with the second defined by this frame of reference. However, the invention of atomic clocks - accurate to about one second in 200 million years - brought about a definition of a second independent of Earth's rotation. Instead, they're based on a consistent signal emitted by electrons changing energy states within an atom.

    Earth has been falling behind the atomic time at a rate of about 2 milliseconds per day, currently trailing the atomic time by six-tenths of a second. Every now and then a leap second must be added to atomic clocks (and thus all of our clocks) to keep in sync with Earth's oddball rotation.

    This Saturday will mark the 25th time a leap second has been added since the practice started in 1972. The most recent leap second occurred in 2008 on New Year's Eve.

    This added second will give 2012 an extra one day and one second, as 2012 was also a leap year - when a day is added at the end of February to address a discrepancy between our 365-day calendar and the time it takes the Earth to circle the sun.

    At 7:59:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), or 23:59:59 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), an extra second will be added to the atomic clock at the U.S. Naval Observatory's Master Clock Facility in Washington, D.C.

    Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    Related: SLIDESHOW: Mind-Blowing New Photos from Space

     

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  • 06/29/12--04:06: Blazing Colorado Wildfires Captured by NASA Satellite Video


  • A video camera aboard the International Space Station offered an unusual perspective of the wildfires torching Colorado, capturing this dramatic footage of the smoke and fires burning in the Western U.S. (NASA)

    Related: Slideshow: Mind-Blowing New Photos From Space

     

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  • 06/29/12--10:16: SKYE Shot of the Day
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